Many were surprised on 26 October to see former President Rajapaksa being appointed Prime Minister by the very man who defeated him a couple years ago, at a considerable risk to himself and to those who helped him win the election.
Then events became even more confusing to many when the Parliament, which had about two years left, was suddenly dissolved by Sirisena. Parliament that was dissolved then resumed after a Stay Order by the topmost Court. However, unfortunately for Rajapaksa, the honeymoon ended very fast. The very first day he entered the House, he was rejected as Prime Minister by the House. Rajapaksa, to save himself from the embarrassment, disrupted the House and the next day, called for general elections. The ill-advised decision of the President to appoint Rajapaksa was orchestrated by the President’s brother Dudley Sirisena, a controversial businessman, allegedly to secure his brother’s future and his business contracts, little knowing what his brother was walking into blindly. He had even persuaded the President not to accept the Speaker‘s ruling. Later, however, the President, due to pressure from civil society, had subsequently informed the United National Party (UNP) that if they can show a majority in Parliament, he would accept the decision of the majority of the Parliament on the condition that they nominate someone other than Ranil Wickremesinghe for the position of Prime Minister. Responding to President Maithripala Sirisena’s remarks at a rally in Colombo, UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe said whatever the President’s personal issues with him may be, the President should not plunge the country into constitutional chaos through his illegal and immoral actions.
Wickremesinghe said in a twitter message that the President should not hold the people he has been elected to serve ransom by plunging the country into constitutional chaos. However, the President has informed the UNP that he cannot and will not cooperate with Ranil Wickremesinghe any further, and to nominate someone else. The representatives of Wickremesinghe who met Sirisena last evening were again told that President Sirisena has guaranteed the UNP that if someone other than Ranil Wickremesinghe can be nominated, Mahinda Rajapaksa would be dismissed from the post of Prime Minister. The President has further requested the party to support him in solving the issue without carrying it any further. The President has recommended Sajith Premadasa for the post of Premier. On the other hand, Sajith Premadasa, who does not want to go against the party or the party leader, has emphasised that given the circumstances, it is only possible to cope with such a huge crisis if the position is filled by a senior person like Ranil Wickremesinghe himself.
Ranil Wickremesinghe, according to UNP insiders, never learns from his past mistakes. Many expected him to change course after the acrimonious no confidence motion that was brought against him by the SLFP. However, he continued to isolate the party and work with his sidekicks Malik Samarawickrama, Akila Kariyawasam and Sagala Rathnayake. President Sirisena publicly called them the ‘samanala group’. Sirisena has told many people he does not want to see any one of them in his Government. Many UNP MPs don’t like them either, according to insiders. The faster they move away from Wickremesinghe, the better it will be for the UNP and for Wickremesinghe.
On the other hand, President Sirisena’s personal disputes with Wickremesinghe are many, but the country cannot suffer because two adults don’t have the courage to deal with their problems face to face. He must now clean up the mess he created given that Speaker Karu Jayasuriya has fulfilled his request and had informed President Maithripala Sirisena in writing yesterday that the no confidence motion moved by Chief Opposition Whip Anura Kumara Dissanayake was duly passed in line with the Standing Orders that govern parliamentary business. He had also sent the list of 122 MPs who supported the motion. Mahinda Rajapaksa, who got caught up in a personal feud and attempted to exploit it to his political advantage to protect his family from the 100 plus cases that are being examined by various courts, must at least now, after losing the no confidence motion for the second time, listen to the most senior SLFP MP in the Joint Opposition, Kumar Welgamege, and take a backseat and stand down without losing the enormous goodwill he has earned among the rural masses over the years.